FT Out Of The Box Series: "Forgotten" African greats who are still playing football
Football stories of Africans playing abroad are decorated with names of upcoming talents spread across all of Europe’s major leagues together with the established talents doing bits almost everywhere. I am referring to Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Nicolas Pepe, Isaac Success, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Franck Kessie, Riyad Mahrez only to mention but a few. There is another list of players who now hardly appear in the news, usually perceived to have retired but are still adding value to their teams and memories of their great exploits are still fresh in their minds, our minds and their feet. Of course feet are incapable of retaining memories but you get the idea. Here at FirstTouch, we have picked just three of those players for now.
Salomon Kalou - Ivory Coast
In as much as I was planning to present an aha moment to you saying, “the great Kalou still plays football,” the weekend’s highlights kind of spoiled all that for me. The great Ivorian reintroduced himself to the media houses covering African players by scoring twice for Bundesliga side, Hertha Berlin in their 2-2 draw away at league leaders, Borussia Dortmund. Kalou, now 33, joined Hertha in 2014 from French Ligue 1 side, Lille. The forward started his football career at ASEC Mimosas in Ivory Coast and went on to play in almost all of the European major leagues in his prime years as a footballer. Kalou first appeared for Dutch Eredivisie side, Feyenoord in Europe where he scored 35 goals in 69 matches becoming so good that a story of him getting a Dutch citizenship by naturalization grabbed the newspaper headlines for quite some time. The forward eventually moved to Chelsea where he played alongside the likes of Didier Drogba and won a premier league title, four FA cups, FA community shield and the infamous 2012 UEFA Champions League trophy. In total, he scored 61 times for Chelsea in 156 appearances and also won some individual accolades such as the 2008 CAF Young Player of the Year and the 2005 Dutch Football Talent of the Year. The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations triumph with Ivory Coast meant Kalou won everything available to a footballer except for the world cup.
Asamoah Gyan - Ghana
This is a man who obviously needs no introduction having been the face of Ghana for quite some time and more interestingly the face of Africa in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, when he broke hearts by missing a quarter-final penalty against Uruguay. Gyan is still very much an active footballer and the official captain of the Black of Stars of Ghana at age 32. He plays for the Turkish side, Kayserispor and has been in their books since 2017. Gyan started his footballing career at Ghanaian Premier League club, Liberty Professionals and went on to wear the colors of several European clubs such as Udinese in the Italian Serie A, English Premier League’s Sunderland and Rennes in the French Ligue 1. He also signed for UAE Pro-League side, Al Ain before moving to Chinese Super League in Shanghai SIPG colors, where he reportedly earned an astounding £227 000 per week, easily becoming on of the world’s best paid players. Gyan became a crowd favorite for the exploits in seven AFCON appearances for Ghana and the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World cups. He is currently Ghana’s leading all time goalscorer with 51 and the leading African goalscorer at the world cup with 6.
Siyabonga Nomvethe - South Africa
Easily the most striking thing about Nomvethe is that he is 40 and still plays in the South African top flight league, the Absa Premiership. Most South Africans will never forget this name, a deadly striker in front of goal in his prime and very much a capable striker for Amazulu FC right now, even at 40 years of age. Nomvethe has had a career that has swung like a pendulum between Europe and his beloved South Africa. He appeared for sides like Udinese in the Italian Serie A, Empoli, AaB in the Danish Superliga as well as both halves of the infamous Soweto derby in Chiefs and Pirates. Even appearing for Moroka Swallows, the rival of the two aforementioned Soweto sides. Ubaba Nomvethe is popularly known for forming partnerships with other South African heroes such Sibusiso Zuma and Aaron Mokoena. Asked about he manages to keep up with the demands of football at age 40 on Supersport’s Thursday Night with Robert Marawa, Nomvethe cited that he doesn’t drive to training, but jogs there. An inconceivable distance that has helped him stay fit.